4 Reasons to Walk Through Menopause

Three women walking
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Menopause often signals changes in mood and energy, including the highest rate of depression of any age group. Many women have difficulty in keeping off weight gain during menopause. Even more alarming, the hormonal changes of menopause bring an increased risk of heart disease.   The good news is that studies have found walking and other moderately intense exercise can battle these problems.

Walk 6000 or More Steps Per Day During Menopause for Weight Control and Health

A study of midlife women found that those whose pedometers logged more than 6000 steps per day had a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and smaller waistlines.

The study was published in November, 2012 in the journal Menopause.

The study of a cross-section of women from a large longitudinal study in Brazil concluded, "Habitual physical activity, specifically walking 6,000 or more steps daily, was associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in middle-aged women, independently of menopause status."

The women in the study were asked to wear a pedometer for seven days to record their steps. The overall average steps per day were just over 5000. In the "inactive" group the average number was a very low 3472, and those women were 61.8% of the total number. The smaller active group averaged 9056 steps per day (31.9% of the total women in the study). The results were adjusted for age, menopause status, smoking and hormone therapy.

This is another piece of evidence that a goal of 10,000 steps per day can reduce health risks and obesity.

A simple pedometer or one that is fun and interactive can help motivate women to move more throughout the day.

Exercise Two to Three Times Per Week for Heart Health at Midlife

A study of over 1 million women through 9 years in Britain found that exercising two to three times per reduced the risk of heart disease, stroke and blood clots by 20%  compared to inactive women.

Walking and other moderately intense exercise such as cycling and gardening were associated with reduced risks.
More: Midlife Exercise Boosts Heart Health

Brisk Walks Boost Mood Better During Menopause

What kind of exercise is more likely to boost your mood and energy level and leave you feeling like you'd like to exercise regularly? Do you need to do vigorous exercise, such as a hard run, to get a "runner's high? " Or can you take a brisk walk and reap those mood and energy enhancing benefits? A study reported at the North American Menopause Society meeting in Washington D.C., 2011, found that moderate intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, was better for midlife women than high intensity exercise.

The women who exercised at moderate intensity were allowed to choose the pace they wanted on a treadmill, but had their heart rates monitored to ensure they were walking fast enough to be at a moderate intensity level. The same women also did a vigorous intensity exercise bout. They were given psychological tests for mood before, during, and after exercise.

For boosting mood, making them smile, and giving them a feeling of increased energy, moderate intensity beat vigorous intensity significantly. In fact, the women who most needed to get into a regular exercise habit because of inactivity or weight responded far less positively to vigorous exercise. As a result, the conclusion of the researchers was that moderate intensity exercise should be promoted to midlife women. They also concluded that women should be encouraged to enjoy physical activities that were personally meaningful and they found enjoyable.
More: 10 Reasons to Start Walking

Exercise Reduces Risk of Depression Through Menopause Years

Middle-age women have the highest rates of depression of any age group. A study followed 2891 women for 10 years as they progressed through menopause. They found that women who achieved the more physically active women had less incidence of depression. More was better. The inactive women were the most likely to be depressed, while those who got some physical activity were less likely. The women who achieved the recommended physical activity guidelines had the lowest incidence of depression.
More: How Much Exercise Do You Need?

Sources:

Steriani Elavsky, Ph.D., Okan Micoogullari, M.Sc. "Psychological Responses to Acute Exercise in Middle-Aged Women: Contrasting the Effects of Vigorous and Moderate Intensity" North American Menopause Society meeting in Washington D.C., 2011. Abstract book, page 40.

Verônica Colpani, Karen Oppermann, Poli Mara Spritzer. "Association between habitual physical activity and lower cardiovascular risk in premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women: a population-based study"; Menopause, published online ahead of print (limited time only), 19 November 2012 (print publication expected May 2013); DOI: 10.1097/gme.0b013e318271b388

DUGAN, SHEILA A.; BROMBERGER, JOYCE T.; SEGAWA, EISUKE; AVERY, ELIZABETH; STERNFELD, BARBARA."Association between Physical Activity and Depressive Symptoms: Midlife Women in SWAN." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. February 2015 - Volume 47 - Issue 2 - p 335–342 doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000407

Miranda E. G. Armstrong, MPhil(cantab), PhD; Jane Green, BMBCh, DPhil; Gillian K. Reeves, MSc, PhD; Valerie Beral, DBE AC FRS; Benjamin J. Cairns, PhD. "Frequent Physical Activity May not Reduce Vascular Disease Risk as Much as Moderate Activity: Large Prospective Study of UK Women." Circulation. February 16, 2015 doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.114.010296

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